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Helen Zaltzman: “no permission or commissioners required”

Helen Zaltzman Podcast Disciple


Helen Zaltzman: “no permission or commissioners required”

The Team at Pod Bible have been looking through the magazine back catalogue with more than a hint of nostalgia. With so many great articles and interviews, we thought it was time to share them here on the website. The Point Of Entry article on The Allusionist last week reminded us of this amazing interview from Issue #002 where we asked the legendary Helen Zaltzman five questions about podcasts and her love of podcasting…

Helen Zaltzman

Why do you love podcasts?

They make a squished train journey or an airport delay far more bearable. They keep you company during a sleepless night or a mentally trying time. They showed me ideas and voices and stories I’d otherwise never know about. They brought me together with people all over the world, virtually and really. They gave me a living where I can do what I want, no permission or commissioners required. They forced me to do the best I can, creatively and intellectually. They’re free to hear.

What was the first podcast you ever listened to?

Before I started podcasting in 2007, the only podcast I had heard was couple of episodes of Adam and Joe’s XFM Show. I didn’t actually start listening to podcasts until about a year into making podcasts myself, when my brother gave me an iPod for Christmas in return for babysitting his daughter while he played football on Tuesdays. The first podcast I listened to that wasn’t a rebroadcast radio show, but was made specifically as a podcast, was probably the late lamented Guardian’s Media Talk.

Which podcaster makes you laugh the most?

I rarely listen to funny shows, but in person, Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder and The West Wing Weekly makes me laugh. On his shows he seems so cool – which he is, frankly he lives a dream life – but behind the scenes he’s a big goofball with an extreme aptitude for puns. I hate puns, but I have to appreciate the artistry. My brother Andy also makes me laugh on and off The Bugle, but he’s a comedian so if he didn’t, he would be bad at his job.

Which podcast has educated you the most?

99% Invisible made me see the world differently, and think about things I’d never consciously thought about before. Even when episodes are on topics I thought I knew about, they’d bring a whole new perspective. The show also taught me how to make a different kind of podcast to what I knew: chopping up an interview to create a narrative; dropping in links after; trying to make listeners feel feelings whilst delivering a dose of information; making a factual show that’s very unlike how Radio 4 would do it. My original pitch for The Allusionist was “99% Invisible but about language”.

Can you recommend a podcast our reader may not have heard of?

Mostly Lit is a podcast I’m actually jealous of! They’re so smart and well-read and witty; their brains are just lightning-fast. I’m also jealous of Imaginary Advice, because it’s so amazingly written and conceptualised and delivered. It is unlike any other podcast out there. I only started listening to 10 Things That Scare Me yesterday, and blew through several episodes on the bus. They’re really beautifully produced, and they’re only five minutes long. More podcasts should be only five minutes long.

The Allusionist cover art

You can listen to adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman on The Allusionist podcast on Acast, Spotify and all other podcast apps. Or you can hear Helen alongside Olly Mann host the award-winning podcast Answer Me This! which has been answering the world’s questions since 2007. Listen now on Acast, Spotify and all other podcasts.

Read more Podcast Disciple articles in the Pod Bible magazine, which you can read online or buy in our shop

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